JOLIET – Joliet Junior College agreed to settle a First Amendment lawsuit Wednesday that a student filed earlier this year.
Manhattan resident Ivette Salazar filed the suit in early January in federal court against her educator, after she said the school violated her freedom of speech by detaining and interrogating her for handing out anti-capitalist literature.
Joliet Junior College paid $30,000 in the settlement.
Legal counsel from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education represented Salazar in litigation.
The nonprofit works to defend liberty, freedom of speech, due process, academic freedom, legal equality and freedom of conscience on America’s college campuses, according to a news release from the organization.
“Thanks to Ivette, students at Joliet Junior College can peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights without having to fear being interrogated by campus police,” said Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon, FIRE’s director of litigation. “We hope this case serves as an example to public colleges across the country, and we commend JJC for acting quickly to restore free speech on its campus.”
As part of her lawsuit, Salazar challenged the constitutionality of the school’s “free speech area” policy that restricted expressive activity to one small, indoor area of campus.
After the lawsuit’s filing, the school modeled an updated version of its free speech and expression policy after the Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression at the University of Chicago (better known as the Chicago Statement) and presented it to the Board of Trustees. FIRE officials provided input into the new policy, Tuthill Beck-Coon said.
The policy was approved at the board’s April 11 meeting, according to a statement from JJC.
The college joins 37 other institutions nationwide in adopting the statement, a news release from FIRE stated.
The school’s new policy allows for expressive activity throughout the college; only constitutional time, place and manner regulations now restrict speech, the release stated.
As part of the settlement, JJC also agreed to provide training to its staff and campus police on new policies and procedures, but the school stands by its previous decisions, it said in a statement.
“The college has a long-standing commitment to free speech and maintains that its former policies and practices were consistent with the First Amendment,” the statement said. “The college also believes the police officers who spoke with Ms. Salazar and [asked] her questions did not infringe upon her rights.”
School officials also said the lawsuit was filed during a regular review of JJC policies and procedures regarding expressive activities on campus.
“Ivette was very brave and wonderfully courageous in standing up for her fellow students and for future students,” Tuthill Beck-Coon said. “The fact that her suit prompted such positive policy change will impact every student that’s currently at JJC and every student that comes to JJC in the future.”